Letting Go of the Weight: Painting at SOIL, Seattle

TOP: (installation view) Julie Alpert and Andy Arkley, Flat & Bright. Courtesy of the artists. BOTTOM: Joey Veltkamp, The Ghost of Claude, acrylic and resin on bisque ceramic. Courtesy of the artist. Photos: Amanda Ringstad.

When Seattle’s first ever exhibition of Picasso’s work closed at the end of January, the city had been thoroughly saturated with the weight of both the artist’s legacy and the museum blockbuster experience. Leaving a heavy association with painting to linger in the city, this month Seattle's SOIL provides an antidote with the March shows Flat & Bright and The Ghosts of Joey Veltkamp. Here, painting lets its guard down, leaving behind the tradition of the three-dimensional canvas in exchange for a pursuit of proudly flat forms closely tied to video games and cartoons. More after the jump!  Erin Langner, Seattle contributor

Flat & Bright merges Julie Alpert’s set-like painting installations with Andy Arkley’s digital animations to create an immersive environment of two-dimensional characters interacting with conveyor belts, scanners and other tools of the consumerist trade. Comprised of life size plywood cutouts and digital projections, the cast of Flat & Bright reappears episodically throughout the show: an electric blue elephant made of plywood, showered in digital water drops, reappears digitally alongside a school of butter cubes and a pink cartoon bear’s abstracted pile of junk, in the somberly fantastical animation Bye Bye Birdie. Still overtly manipulating painting's formal elements through thoughtful compositions, lines, and textures, Flat & Bright presents the medium with a welcome lightness of being.

TOP: (installation view) Flat & Bright. BOTTOM: Joey Veltkamp, The Ghost of Rock Hudson and The Ghost of Judy Garland, acrylic and resin on bisque ceramic. Courtesy of the artistPhotos: Amanda Ringstad.

Occupying SOIL's back room, The Ghosts of Joey Veltkamp continues in a vibrant, fantasy-driven vein. More intimate in scale, and integrating a more anthropomorphic point of view, Veltkamp (a frequent contributor to the New American Paintings Blog!) continues his explorations of edition-based painted sculptures with 32 small ceramic ghost figures.

Reflecting an idiosyncratic group of individuals and symbols, the ghosts represent popular culture figures including Rock Hudson and Judy Garland, as well as less recognizable individuals such as the blue, mustached ghost simply named Claude. The self-consciously innocent sheet ghosts serve as mourning objects rooted in a conceptual purgatory between a highly constructed image of mortality and the natural comfort offered by lighthearted objects in times of distress. Like the adjacent Flat & Bight show, The Ghosts of Joey Veltkamp demonstrates how the versatility of painting manifests in dynamic objects that diverge from the medium’s more serious history and embrace the contemporary moment.

TOP: (installation views) Joey Veltkamp, The Ghosts of Joey Veltkamp. Courtesy of the artist. BOTTOM: Andy Arkley and Julie Alpert, Flat & Bright. Photos: Amanda Ringstad.

Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Adult Public Programs Coordinator at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).

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